6 At-Home Natural Remedies To Soothe Pink Eye
If you’ve ever dealt with itchy, red, watery, painful eyes, chances are you’ve had pink eye. This uncomfortable condition can affect close to 6 million people (1) each year in America and can inhibit the quality of your daily life.
While pink eye isn’t a chronic condition and usually clears up on its own, as a functional medicine practitioner, it's my job to help you get better and stay healthy - as naturally as possible so you can continue thriving.
So if you are currently struggling with this issue and looking for relief, here are my favorite natural remedies for pink eye that you can try today.
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What is pink eye?
Medically referred to as conjunctivitis, pink eye occurs when the blood vessels in the transparent membrane - the conjunctiva - that sits on top of the white part of your eyeball become inflamed.
This inflammation can be caused by a number of factors such as allergies, bacterial, or viral infection and results in symptoms such as:
- Watery eyes
- Swollen eyelids
Pink eye can happen in one or both eyes and is extremely contagious.
Different types of pink eye
In order to determine the best home remedies for pink eye, you first need to know what type of pink eye you are dealing with. By understanding what caused your pink eye to occur in the first place, you’ll be able to determine the best course of action moving forward to find relief and alleviate symptoms.
1. Bacterial and viral pink eye
This is the most common type of pink eye and is a direct result of a bacterial or viral infection.
Bacterial pink eye is often due to dirty contact lenses, or insufficient hand washing. Whereas viral pink eye can be caused by viruses such as adenovirus and herpes simplex virus.
Since this type of pink eye is so contagious, it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible and avoid touching your eyes as it can be spread easily to your other eye or other people via direct touch or contaminated surfaces.
2. Allergic pink eye
The result of an allergic reaction to pollen or another substance, this type of pink eye can lead to common conjunctivitis symptoms like itching, redness, and tearing alongside other symptoms linked to allergies like sneezing and head congestion. This type of pink eye can be more likely to occur in both eyes at the same time.
You will find that treating your allergies through your preferred methods can alleviate this type of pink eye, however, the home remedies for pink eye listed below can still provide some relief. For tips on natural allergy relief, explore my list of the best essential oils for allergies.
Just like it sounds, irritation from constant rubbing or exposure to a foreign substance can cause your eye to become inflamed, red, and itchy
Natural Remedies for Pink Eye
As a functional medicine practitioner, I’m often asked about natural remedies for common health problems like “How do you get rid of an eye infection naturally?” Instead of having to spend precious time and money going to the doctor to get an antibiotic, they want to know how to get rid of pink eye fast, as naturally as possible.
Thankfully there are many natural remedies for pink eye that offer quick relief to the uncomfortable symptoms that go alongside this condition.
1. Cold or hot compress
Cold and hot compresses can act as a natural cure for pink eye by soothing pain and inflammation. Place a cloth soaked in cold or warm water - whichever feels the most soothing to you - over your eye for at least 20 minutes a few times a day. Be sure to wash the cloth immediately and avoid putting it over your healthy eye (if pink eye is isolated in only one eye) so as to not spread the infection.
2. Remove external irritations
This holistic pink eye remedy is all about what not to do. Avoid any sort of eye makeup like mascara or eyeshadow until your pink eye has completely cleared and switch out your contacts for glasses. It's very important to give your eyes a rest from anything that could cause further strain or irritation on your eye and to throw away any makeup and contacts you used right before getting pink eye. This ensures that you don’t get reinfected.
3. Flush out your eyes
Excess mucus, pus, and fluid can build up in certain cases of pink eye. Flushing your eyes out with clean, filtered water multiple times a day can help reduce build up and speed up recovery. Remember to only use cold or room temperature water!
4. Stay hydrated
Your eyes require moisture to stay healthy. Dehydration can further perpetuate symptoms of itchiness, dryness, and redness. Make sure you are drinking enough water throughout your day and up your intake during the healing process.
5. Try Eyebright
Eyebright - also referred to as Euphrasia - is a plant often used in Europe as a holistic treatment for pink eye. While more research needs to be done to further confirm its efficacy, some initial studies (2) have shown eyebright essential oils to be helpful in reducing symptoms with very minimal, if any, side effects due to its antimicrobial capabilities. You can find eyebright in capsules, tea, or liquid form. Always talk with your doctor before taking any new supplements.
6. Support your immune system
If you struggle with recurring pink eye, strengthening your immune system to fight off bacteria and viral infections is going to be important. Focus on a diet rich in nutrients like Vitamin A, zinc, and other micronutrients from clean, whole food sources. Healing your gut is especially important as it is home to almost 80% of your immune system!
When pink eye needs medical attention
Can your body get rid of pink eye on its own? Most times, yes. Ultimately, pink eye should clear up on its own over a week or two and shouldn’t be cause for concern. However, if you are experiencing loss of vision, blurred vision, or sensitivity to light, it is vital that you see your doctor as soon as possible to make sure there is no damage to your cornea or other areas of your eye.
Pink eye can happen to any one of us. But struggling with constant, recurring instances of pink eye is not normal. Whether it is caused by allergies, bacterial, or viral infections, chronic pink eye is a sign that your health could use a little TLC.
Functional medicine can help pinpoint areas of your health such as a weak immune system, poor gut health, and other factors that can be inhibiting your body’s ability to fight off infections.
If you are ready to overcome pink eye once and for all, as one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.
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- Azari AA: A Systematic Review of Diagnosis and Treatment. JAMA. 2013;310(16):1721–1730. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.280318 Barney NP. Conjunctivitis
- Novy, Pavel et al. “Composition and Antimicrobial Activity of Euphrasia rostkoviana Hayne Essential Oil.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2015 (2015): 734101. doi:10.1155/2015/734101
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.
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